Joke of the week

  • Policy & Research
  1. Ankara and Moscow getting closer
  2. Sanction-free oil routes
  • U.S. Developments
  1. Blinken heads to Africa, vying with Russia for influence
  2. Bipartisan pressure on Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism
  • Kremlin’s Narratives in Western Societies
  1. Ukraine will disappear from the map, or the third world war will begin
  2. Civilians are in danger due to Ukrainian fighting tactics
  • Russian Propaganda in Ukraine
  1. Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “is working normally”
  2. MANPADS on the roof of the Musical Comedy Theatre

Policy & Research

Ankara and Moscow getting closer

Deepening ties between the presidents of Turkey and Russia worry the West: the two leaders met Friday in Sochi and discussed greater cooperation on trade and energy. The meeting solidified their commitment to providing “relief” to Syria, even though they support opposing sides, with Ankara backing the rebels and Moscow supporting the Damascus government of Bashar Al-Assad.

The Turkish president is planning a new invasion of the neighbouring country, echoing the Kremlin’s label in Ukraine of a “special military operation,” to attack Kurdish militias in the north of the country and presumably targeting the humanitarian goal of resettling Syrian refugees in the eventual “safe zone,” responding to domestic migrant pressures ahead of next year’s elections.

In addition, EU officials are monitoring the situation since Turkey is pledging to help Russia bypass sanctions. They have warned that if the NATO member continues with their plan, they may ask companies and banks to withdraw from the country, especially after Ukraine leaked a document on Russian plans to evade Western sanctions through Turkish banks. The mutual dependence is striking: Erdogan provides a back door to NATO for Putin, and Russia not only supplies 45 per cent of Turkey’s gas demand but validates Erdogan’s independent foreign policy internationally

Sanction-free oil routes

To evade sanctions imposed by the West following its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow is resorting to using an Egyptian terminal on the Mediterranean coast to export oil. A cargo of 700,000 barrels was delivered to the El Hamra terminal on July 24, and when it left the port four days later it was empty. This strategy allows the Kremlin to avoid tracking the cargo’s final destination and falling back on potential buyers.

The El Hamra oil terminal is operated by Egypt’s Western Desert Operating Petroleum Co. and is used to store domestically produced oil, possibly allowing Russian exports to be easily blended with local production to further muddy the waters. Transfers of oil cargoes were already occurring through Egyptian ports to Saudi Arabia, but it remains unclear whether this shadow strategy was a one-time operation or an operational test for the future.

Similar strategies were already implemented near the Azores Islands in Portugal, where Russian freighters turned off their signals to prevent the final destination of the oil from being tracked. Russian cargo ships have also resorted to ship-to-ship barrel transfer operations at sea, typically not common that far from the coast except to avoid tracking. This could become the new norm ahead of new European sanctions on oil exports from Moscow scheduled for this year, which will cut about 90 per cent of Russian oil imports

U.S. Developments

Blinken heads to Africa, vying with Russia for influence

On the 8th of August Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South Africa which is the beginning of a three-country tour including Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The trip aims at trying to contain Russian and Chinese geopolitical influence on the continent. As experts claim, the reason why Blinken visited South Africa is that this country has some tensions with the United States.

In particular, the party of government, the African National Congress regularly criticizes the US, thus the purpose of Blinken’s trip is to improve the relationships with South Africa. Furthermore, amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the trip intends to align the two countries’ perspectives on Russia’s war in Ukraine as Pretoria and Washington have conflicting issues on the Russia-Ukraine war.

It is worth noting that some African governments were hesitant to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Another two countries were also chosen carefully. In the case of the DRC, which is rich in “strategic and critical minerals”, the US doesn’t want them to fall into the Chinese and Russian hands. As for Rwanda, amid the inflating conflict between Rwanda and DRC, Blinken attempts to offer countries his good offices.

Bipartisan pressure on Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism

Democratic and Republican senators call on Joe Biden to designate Russia as a sponsor state of terrorism in response to its invasion of Ukraine. In particular, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham are the most vocal in terms of putting forth this idea.

As Graham stated, he wants the Biden administration to engage with Congress in designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, but Congress will do it if Biden is reluctant. Richard Blumenthal even went far and called Putin a “bully” and “thug” and pointed out that Putin will threaten Europe and the world “unless he is stopped”. But as State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the measures taken by the US are similar to the measures which would be adopted in case of designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

 It is worth noting that State Department is in charge of labelling nations as state sponsors of terrorism. The definition of the designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is the following: “country that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”.

Kremlin’s Narratives in Western Societies

Ukraine will disappear from the map, or the third world war will begin reports American economist Jeffrey Sachs, who warned that the conflict in Ukraine would not end with the defeat of Vladimir Putin. “Ukraine will disappear from the map, or the third world war will begin,” he gave a prediction of the course of events during the Free Thoughts on the Future conference.

Sachs blames the West for starting the current “conflict”, saying that there is only one option to end hostilities – NATO must admit that it will not expand at the expense of Ukraine. The arrogance of the Western military alliance, which refused to take into account the demands of Russia to ensure its security, is the reason for the outbreak of hostilities in the centre of Europe. And if the West wants peace, Sacks believes, it needs to end the war against Russia, not on NATO terms, but with Moscow’s interests in mind.

Earlier, he noted that the conflict in Ukraine can be resolved through negotiations, but only after the North Atlantic Alliance abandons the idea of expanding in Europe, 360 TV channel reports. Sachs called “European recklessness” another source of the instability, adds MK.RU.

Civilians are in danger due to Ukrainian fighting tactics

Amnesty International says Ukrainian troops violate military and humanitarian law and harm civilians by placing weapons in schools and hospitals, reports RIA NovostiThe Times writes that Amnesty International has become a mouthpiece for the propaganda of Vladimir Putin’s regime, slandering the victims of Russian aggression.

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamar defended the organization’s report on the violation of international law by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, informs RT. “The conclusions were based on evidence collected during extensive investigations, which were carried out by strict standards and procedures,” RIA Novosti quotes Callamar as saying. The Secretary General of the organization unequivocally emphasized that Amnesty International “fully supports” the conclusions set out in the report.

The Ukrainian office of the organization published a comment explaining that the Ukrainian team was not involved in the preparation of the mentioned report, advises Ukrainska Pravda. Then the director of Amnesty International Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, announced that she was resigning from her post on Facebook and Amnesty International co-founder Per Westberg stepped down in protest disagreeing with Amnesty International’s statements about “war crimes” in Ukraine, informs NEXTA Live.

Russian propaganda in Ukraine

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “is working normally”

Kremlin propaganda is trying to justify the actions of the Russian military on Ukraine’s nuclear energy infrastructure. In this context, Russian media, citing Igor Vishnevetskiy, the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote that the actions of the Russian military do not cause any harm to the safety of the nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is “protected” by Russian troops, “is working normally.”

However, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, stated that the fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant increases the risks of a nuclear disaster. Earlier, he warned that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine “is completely out of control.”

Intelligence representative Andrii Yusov confirmed that the Russians were mining power units of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. In addition, according to Energoatom, the Russian occupiers announced the mining of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and their readiness to blow it up. The head of the troops of radiation, chemical, and biological protection of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Major General Valery Vasiliev, said, “there will be Russian land or a scorched desert.”

MANPADS on the roof of the Musical Comedy Theatre

Russian propaganda spreads fakes and manipulative messages to accuse the Ukrainian military of violating the rules of war. In this context, the Russian Defence Ministry reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine allegedly “deployed MANPADS on the roof of the Musical Comedy Theatre and heave weapons and equipment on the territory of the university in Odesa.” However, this information is not true.

Both institutions denied the statements of Russian propagandists. The administration of the Odesa Academic Theater of Musical Comedy called the message “a cynical fake of the occupiers.” The Rector of Odesa State Environmental University, Serhiy Stepanenko, invited all interested parties to visit the “military facility,” where meteorological training stations are located for the practical training of meteorology students.

In addition, Oleh Bryndak, acting deputy mayor of Odesa, arrived at the Musical Comedy Theatre to demonstrate to the media that Odesa cultural institutions do not participate in hostilities and are not used by the military. Staying on the theatre’s roof, Bryndak said that “laughter has always been heard within the walls of this theatre and humour has always been respected, but the jokes from the Russian Ministry of Defence force us to be not in the theatre hall, but here.

Elita Khmelidze
Eleonora Sobrero
Dmytro Filonenko
Marcin Jerzewski
in collaboration with experts from Information Defense Hub